Adaptive Skill as The Conditio Sine Qua Non of Expertise

Paul Ward, Julie Gore, Robert Hutton, Gareth Conway, Hoffman Robert

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This critical interpretive research synthesis is on the topic of adaptation and skill. After an initial identification of 1995 abstracts we identified and collated a database of 140 publications that explicitly reference expertise and adaptation. We found that empirical data on adaptive skill are sparse and the literature base is largely conceptual. We differentiate the adaptive nature of expertise from routine or every day skill, and we redress the balance between what constitutes expertise and when expertise matters. We present an overview of current models of expertise including a project that we completed for the UK Ministry of Defence on the nature of adaptive skill. We discuss implications for future training by presenting empirically based training principles designed to develop adaptive skill. We assert that adaptive skill is the conditio sine qua non of expertise and conclude with suggestions for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-50
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Issue number1
Early online date14 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Adaptive skill
  • Critical interpretive synthesis
  • Expertise
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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